Kamala Steele’s journey as a nurse has been a winding path, but one that she wouldn’t change. After earning the BSN at the University of Central Arkansas in 2006, Kamala started her career in Memphis, Tennessee, working for five years at Methodist University Hospital with patients dealing with congestive heart failure. It didn’t take long for her to decide to pursue a master’s degree.
“I’ve been told often that I care almost too much,” Kamala admits, adding that she can’t help but take each and every patient’s situation to heart. She decided that perhaps she was better suited for management or patient education than bedside care, and started an online MSN, healthcare systems management specialization, at Loyola University. After graduating, Kamala got a job back in Arkansas at Baptist Health Schools-Little Rock as a nursing faculty member, teaching medical-surgical nurses. At the same time, Kamala worked for Baptist Health Community Outreach, educating community members on how to improve their health and quality of life. It was a big change, but one that re-ignited her fire for the profession. “I never realized before this job how truly fulfilled I could be.”
A huge opportunity
In 2014, Kamala had the opportunity to join the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the only comprehensive academic health center in the state. She teaches in the online RN to BSN program. “I found a different type of love for online education,” Kamala says. “In online learning, I feel I’m teaching skills like professionalism in addition to the core nursing curriculum.”
Time for a doctoral program
Kamala enjoys online nursing education so much, she says she is committed to it for the rest of her career. To elevate her skills, she started considering doctorate programs—and she’d heard about American Sentinel from several colleagues. After first enrolling in an online Ph.D. in nursing education, Kamala decided to switch gears. “My primary goal is to enhance my practice and become a better instructor of future nurses, not to conduct research. I really liked the practice-based Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership at American Sentinel.” She started the program in October 2014.
Challenges and tragedy
Kamala has thoroughly enjoyed her DNP program thus far, saying that she’s learned things she never knew and feels excited about how the degree will bolster her future career as an educator. She will graduate in early 2017.
However, it hasn’t been an easy road. Kamala’s seven-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, though he has thankfully been in remission since 2013. The family makes visits every four months to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. In February 2015, Kamala’s mother passed away from cancer after a 17-year battle. Later, her husband was laid off from his job unexpectedly.
Through it all, Kamala has stayed strong and kept her eye on the goal. “There are days that it is hard, but I remember to always think about the outcome, about the reason I’m doing this. I want to teach, and I need to support my family for many more years.”
Inspired by many
Kamala’s husband and son are her biggest supporters, expressing their pride repeatedly. American Sentinel’s team has also cheered her on every step of the way.
“American Sentinel offers a great DNP program, and they make it their job to help you stay on track,” she says. “This is a university that really wants you to succeed. You can tell from the effort they put into students in every single class and through every single interaction.”
Inspired by Kamala’s story? A DNP with a specialization in educational leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in nursing education programs. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.